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Duterte favors mandatory vaccination, face shield return over Omicron threat

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President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday expressed support for proposals to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory and to reimpose the face shield requirement amid the threat of a new virus variant.

Duterte raised the possibility of enforcing the two policies during his televised meeting with local experts and other members of the national task force against coronavirus, which he had convened two days after the World Health Organization (WHO) flagged the Covid-19 Omicron variant.

During the meeting, the President lamented that some Filipinos remain hesitant to get Covid-19 jabs despite the government’s massive inoculation efforts.

“I may agree with the task force if they decide to make it mandatory,” he said, as vaccination remains optional in the country. “It’s for public health.”

Duterte, meanwhile, said that he would have wanted vaccine sites to open from Mondays to Sundays so more people can get the Covid-19 shots.

Meanwhile, he directed the task force to study whether the public should be advised again to wear face shields outdoors, as he described the gear as an “added layer of protection” against Covid-19 transmission.

“This shield, as a layman, I would say that an added cover could be an added protection,” Duterte said.

“I would suggest to the task force to make a statement whether or not really — if Omicron enters, since we have a dearth of data — we would just dictate, maybe we could be strict again,” he added.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who told the President that the Omicron variant will inevitably enter the Philippines, also agreed to the possible reimposition of the face shield policy. Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. echoed Duque’s sentiment.

All government officials and infectious disease experts who attended the meeting had conceded that the government should continue its strict border controls, genomic sequencing initiatives, enforcement of health protocols, and vaccination efforts to address the threat of the Omicron variant.

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